The Ghosts of Silo City

Silo City, Buffalo, NY

The Erie Canal opened in 1825, allowing shipments of grain between ports on the Great Lakes and Buffalo, NY to be moved to New York City, the Atlantic Ocean and then the world. This allowed Buffalo to become the largest transshipment center for grain throughout the world. In the early 1900’s there were fourteen concrete grain elevators along the Buffalo River as more and more grain was moved through or stored in Buffalo. In 1959 the US and Canada completed the expansion of the St. Lawrence Seaway allowing larger, ocean going ships to sail up to ports on the Great Lakes, load up with grain and bypass Buffalo on their way home. Almost overnight, the grain trade in Buffalo changed from a major transshipment center to that of grain only being shipped there to be used locally. Over the next forty years, most of the grain elevators there were shut down and abandoned.

My Against the Grain work documented the end of this process from 1989 through 2004. Although I spent sixteen years photographing the grain scoopers working along the remaining working elevators, I was never allowed into them to photograph. In June of 2012, on a trip back to Buffalo, I was invited to photograph in Silo City, six acres of abandoned elevators along a bend in the Buffalo River. owned by local businessman Rick Smith. Within an hour of being there I decided to return and start offering workshops, the first of which was that year. Since then I have conducted two workshops a year at Silo City. During the workshops I rarely photograph but I do make it a point to arrive a day or two early or stay later and do my own photography. With over 500,000 square feet of area once filled the noise of machines and men, there is a ghostly feeling of what once was.